- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 12, 2005

LONDON — British Prime Minister Tony Blair blamed parents yesterday for failing to bring up their children properly as he promised that tackling rowdy behavior would be a central theme of Labor’s third term in power.

He said one of the chief lessons from the election campaign was that voters worry about a loss of respect on the streets and in schools.

After eight years as prime minister, he painted a bleak picture of society, with increasing numbers of people feeling intimidated by vandalism, binge drinking and street-corner thugs.

Such behavior is “out of hand,” he said at his first press conference since winning re-election.

Some town centers were no-go areas at night over weekends for the law-abiding majority, he said, and some older people had a “sense of fear” when they went to the shops.

Mr. Blair also supported an announcement by Britain’s largest shopping center yesterday that banned youths wearing the “urban crime” uniform of baseball caps and hooded tops.

The Bluewater center in Kent, southeast England, said it had published a code of conduct for patrons at the 330-store complex outlining a “zero-tolerance” approach to anti-social behavior.

The code bans groups of more than five who do not intend to shop and prohibits caps and hooded tops, which could prevent identification.

“I think that is fine. — I agree with it,” Mr. Blair said.

Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott said he had himself been the victim of intimidation by youths wearing hooded tops at a service station last year.

Mr. Blair said the government would address rowdy behavior as part of a “bold” program of reform of the public services. He said he wants a society that is less deferential and less prejudiced, but that goal is very different from a loss of respect for other people.

Mr. Blair said: “People are rightly fed up with street corner and shopping center thugs; yobbish behavior sometimes from children as young as 10 or 11 whose parents should be looking after them; Friday and Saturday night binge drinking, which makes our town centers no-go areas for respectable citizens; of the low-level graffiti, vandalism and disorder that is the work of a small minority that makes the law-abiding majority afraid and angry.”

Mr. Blair put much of the blame on parents, saying the “deep-seated cause” of a lack of respect could be traced to family life.

While the government could introduce legislation and start a debate, “what I cannot do is raise someone’s children for them,” he said.

He promised to toughen anti-social behavior legislation, so that people drunk and disorderly would be punished.

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